A lot changes when students transition into high school and one skill that becomes more important than ever is that of note-taking. “In high school, students are expected to become proficient note-takers, and those notes will become essential study tools that they use to review material for quizzes and tests,” says Co-Founder Eileen Huntington of Huntington Learning Center. “Note-taking should augment student learning and help students recall difficult concepts more easily and remember what teachers teach. Our goal when working with students is to share some of the basics that will help them retain what they learn and study smarter.”
Huntington shares these seven strategies for effective note-taking with parents and their teens:
Record meaningful facts. The goal of note-taking should be to summarize the most important parts of what a teacher shares during a lecture: dates, names, places, formulas or anything else that is emphasized. It’s good to write lots of notes, but teens should focus on recording points that seem important, recurring themes or other details that are critical to their overall understanding.
Group ideas. Lots of “raw” notes may not make studying any easier for a student. It’s a good idea to leave space on the left- or right-hand side of the notebook for condensing and recapping concepts. During class or afterward, teens can write down any main ideas on the side of their notes, or at a minimum, subtitles of what was discussed.
Think quality over quantity. New high school students tend to think good note-taking means recording everything the teacher says. It’s a common challenge for students: focusing so intently on taking notes that they forget to listen and process information enough to be thoughtful about what they record in their notebooks. Big picture: notes should concentrate on what the teacher wants the class to know. That may very well mean teens’ pencils aren’t moving the entire class period, and that’s perfectly fine.
Follow along in the book if appropriate. When the teacher focuses on a particular chapter or topic, it can be helpful later on to have page numbers to refer to for clarification or more information. Teens should ask at the beginning of the period if the teacher is referencing textbook material.
Date and title notes. It’s a minor thing that can make a huge difference: labeling notes will prove helpful when it comes time to study for a test. Teens should always put the date, class name and topic(s) discussed at the top of their notes.
Highlight the clues. Teachers usually point out information that students need to know and it is a smart idea to call out these cues in notes. Teens should listen for phrases like the most important part, for example, in summary, as a review and the only exception to this is. These should trigger careful note-taking and teens should notate these important points with an asterisk or other symbol.
Say it another way. One of the most important parts of note-taking is not the note-taking itself—it’s the reflection process. Teens should write down complex points in their own words so they are easier to understand later. This helps information “click” and reinforces long-term retention.
Huntington reminds parents that taking notes is not a natural skill—it must be taught and practiced. “Organized students tend to take cleaner notes, of course, but note-taking is meant to solidify knowledge and make studying easier and more effective, and that doesn’t come easily to many students,” she says. Huntington helps students develop their study skills, including their note-taking abilities. For more information, contact Huntington Learning Center at 1-800-CAN-LEARN.
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